As an Internet-only publication, DargonZine functioned for many years without our writers ever meeting one another face-to-face. It seems difficult to believe now, but before we started having annual gatherings of our writers, we were actually a little concerned about meeting in person. Would our fellow writers turn out to be people you wouldn’t want to be around? Would people get along with one another? Would disagreements begun on our discussion list carry over and grow into divisive conflicts in person? And even if everything went well, would just meeting one another change the healthy group dynamic we’d built up over the years?
For many years, meetings between writers were rare, and mostly one-on-one; as Editor, of course, I met more than most, and got along well with just about everyone. But it was ten years after the founding of FSFnet, later to become DargonZine, before any sizeable or organized meetings took place. The change happened gradually over the mid-1990s. In 1994 I spent a two week vacation driving from Boston to Austin, and met six of our writers who lived along my route. In 1995 and 1996 three or four of our more active writers got together (in Boston and Denver, respectively), again on personal vacations and also as trial runs for a larger gathering.
Those initial meetings worked out well, so the next year, 1997, we planned our first official Dargon Writers’ Summit, with attendance open to all our writers. Our goals were to have fun, get to know one another, set some direction for the magazine, and explore the craft of writing. As it happened, we had a lot of fun running around our host city of Washington DC, got a lot of valuable work done in focused working sessions, and generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about DargonZine. It was by all measures a resounding success and forever dispelled our earlier fears about getting our writers together.
Five years later, we have just returned from our fifth Summit, which took place at the beginning of June. This was our most lightly attended gathering, because some people have recently left the project, and others had time conflicts. Although only six Dargon writers (and one former writer) showed up, we still got a lot done and had a blast, as well.
Each year one of our writers volunteers to take on the responsibility of hosting the Summit in their home town. Hosting is a big job; it involves not just planning activities, but securing lodging, reserving (and paying for) conference space, coordinating (and paying for) transportation, planning airport pick-ups and departures, and much more, and none of it should be allowed to go wrong.
This year’s host was Rena Deutsch, and she did a superb job as she shuttled us between our base in San Jose, California, and San Francisco. Typically we try to find things to do that are unique to our host area, but which still allow us to socialize with one another. In San Jose, we visited the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, and also the Winchester Mystery House, one of the most ludicrously-built domiciles made by man. In San Francisco we crawled around on the rocks at the Cliff House, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, and sang with the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf. All that, in addition to Summit standard activities like billiards, mini-golf, go-karting, crazy tabletop games, and, of course, plenty of eating! Big thanks go to Rena for running one of the smoothest Summits we’ve had to date!
About a third of our time at each Summit is devoted to serious work, and this year’s working sessions focused primarily on co-authoring, a topic which has come up repeatedly due to several recent co-authored stories. We had in-depth discussions about what makes a co-authoring experience work, and then followed it up by splitting into three pairs and getting some hands-on experience by collaboratively drafting some stories. In fact, there’s talk about finishing and publishing two of the three stories that came out of our writing exercise!
Of course, that wasn’t our exclusive focus. We got to learn more about DargonZine’s history by sharing some project folklore; we continued to evolve and refine our mentoring program; we talked about how we make more use of the shared elements of the Dargon milieu; we reviewed our annual goals; and we had a contest to see who could write the best story lead-ins. As you can imagine, the working sessions were intense, but among the most productive we’ve ever had.
And, looking back on five years of Summits, and after having met 23 of the 48 published Dargon writers, I continue to be amazed that we were concerned about what might happen if we got our writers together in person. Each of our Summit meetings has been productive, rewarding, exciting, and helped move DargonZine and our writers forward. And more than anything else, it’s been great fun sharing so many unique and interesting experiences with the great people who freely give their time and energy to produce stories for DargonZine.
A write-up and photos from this year’s Dargon Writers’ Summit can be seen on the Web at <http://www.dargonzine.org/summit01.shtml>.
This issue features a poignant new short piece from Jon Evans, who returns to the scene of his 1997 story “Sailor’s Homecoming”. The issue continues with the second installment of P. Atchley and Rhonda Gomez’s three-part “Triskele”, and concludes with the second half of Nick Wansbutter’s “Death Has a Pale Face”.
That’s it for now, but look for us again in another six weeks or so. Thanks for your continued interest in DargonZine, and please help us stay in business by spreading the word!